The Hardy City Council hosted a public meeting on April 12 at City Hall to discuss the possibility of implementing a pump maintenance fee, and an ordinance for deliberate destruction of sewage pumps, along with wholesale water charges and restroom maintenance fees.
Besides one city employee and a relative of a council member, only one resident showed up for the meeting.
Mayor Nina Thornton explained the city's need to implement the $5 pump maintenance surcharge, to be held in a special fund to repair pumps within the city.
She explained the city has about 175 pumps, including lift, booster station and sewer pumps. The cost to repair and replace the pumps has increased from $2,850 in 2005 to $4,500 recently, according to Water and Street Superintendent Billy Gilbreath.
The discussion also involved implementing the same type of ordinance the City of Highland has. It would set rules, regulations and penalties for negligence, including introducing foreign items into the sewer system.
Thornton said she spoke with Ricky Carter with USDA and he said many cities have implemented this type of ordinance. She said she also contacted the Arkansas Department of Health, because 75 percent of Hardy's population is at or below the poverty level.
Thornton said both Carter and the ADA concurred that the ordinance and surcharge were an agreeable way to remedy the problem.
The city has fewer funds to purchase and repair pumps, due to a loss of nearly $45,000 yearly from the Riverbend Park system. Thornton said, "Waste water hasn't been carrying itself for sometime. They (USDA) have been after us since 2005 to raise water rates. I am adamant we don't want to raise the rates. We have many who live on a fixed income. If we don't do something to fix this problem, USDA will force us to."
She explained that the sewer and waste water were separate audits; the department is required to get revenue where it is needed to pay the money that is owed them. Although the city is required to have one year's money in reserve, in case of default on payments, it can not be used for anything but reserves.
Although the calculations indicated the city needed to collect a $10 surcharge, Thornton said, "By implementing a $5 straight-- across surcharge, this will give the city the bare minimum." This amount will give the city $62,200 in reserve the first year.
Gilbreath explained previously, the city was able to install 5,000 feet of extra water line annually, but after many cuts, there is not enough revenue to keep up this practice and allow the city to expand its water system.
A resident who attended said he understood the need for the charge, but also pointed out this is a time people have the least amount of money, due to the economy and gas prices. The resident suggested, since pump prices have risen so drastically, this is also the time the city should purchase and build up a stock of the pumps.
The issue will be revisited and possibly voted upon at the next meeting of the Hardy City Council, to be held on May 2.